From Globalization to Liquidation: The Deutsch-Asiatische Bank and the First World War in China

Ghassan Moazzin, University of Cambridge
The Deutsch-Asiatische Bank in Shanghai, c. 1900. Source: Deutsche Bank AG, Historical Institute, Frankfurt am Main.
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Abstract

This article uses the case of the Deutsch-Asiatische Bank and its liquidation during the First World War to examine the challenges faced by German businesses during the war in China and China’s involvement in Allied economic warfare. This case suggests the detrimental effect that political crises and global shifts of power had on foreign businesses in modern China’s globalized treaty port economy. It also reveals China’s role in the global economic warfare of the Allies, showing that China first resisted Allied demands for a full liquidation of the German bank but eventually acquiesced to Allied pressure and handed control over the liquidation to the Allies. As a consequence, China ended up violating the very international law it had put so much value on when entering the war.

Keywords: China, WWI, Deutsch-Asiatische Bank, liquidation, economic warfare, international law, foreign banks, Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation